Why Some Black People Ignore the Negative Research on Spanking

Family • spanking
Why Some Black People Ignore the Negative Research on Spanking
July 5, 2012 by Kirsten West Savali

[Warning: If you believe routine corporal punishment is a form of “discipline” and an effective parenting tool, or you are easily offended by critical opinions of that method, this might not be the article for you. If this applies, please proceed to the first article that more comfortably aligns with your beliefs. Now we will continue with your regularly scheduled programming.]

I am an extremely vocal opponent of corporal punishment as a casual form of discipline. Not because I particularly care about what happens in the households of others, but because there has been such extensive research proving myriad negative effects on the evolving psyches of children when their parents hit them, that I cannot, in good conscience, buy into the propaganda that “it’s good for them.”

Yes, hit. Not “spank.” Hit, and for the purpose of this article, we’re going to call a spade a spade.

When the results of a recent study hit the Internet revealing that hitting children as a form of discipline – no matter how rarely it may occur — increases their chances of developing mental illness, I posted it on my Facebook page without any commentary.

I did this for two reasons:

1.) I wanted to see how quickly the conversation completely jumped the tracks, with advocates of hitting children as a form of discipline weighing in with how “they turned out alright.”

2.) I was genuinely curious to read the reactions of others to a study that didn’t judge the parents, but showed undeniably, negative long-term effects on the children.

I was not disappointed at all with the answers to question #1; nor was I surprised that question #2 was avoided with as much skill as Snoop Dogg trying to sneak through airport security with a bag of weed.

The very first comment was a zinger:

I was spanked & slapped…I’ve never been in any legal trouble, I’m educated, generous, kind — a model citizen. I will do the same when I’m a mother.

This statement was problematic for me because mental illness in no way suggests that a person is not a “model citizen.” Nor could I understand why anyone in sound mind and body would actually plan to slap their future children.

The next statement was no less generic, but even more troubling:

So when children get out of line [or are] disrespectful, talk back to you, stay out all times of the night, what do you do then? Send them to their room? You as the parent(s) can do it. “Discipline” them or let society do it.

The purposeful ignorance of believing that discipline and hitting are synonymous never ceases to amaze me. Discipline actually takes a brain, while hitting takes nothing but a belt, switch, or a hand, and I find it reprehensible for anyone to condone the striking of a child in anger. The “divine purpose” of “spare the rod” is nothing but religious doctrine, which, as one of my friends so brilliantly pointed out, comes from the same book of parables and fables that contains the “true story” of God ordering she-bears to viciously eat 42 children alive for calling Elisha bald-head.

As I previously reported for NewsOne when discussing the Pastor Creflo Dollar case, there have been a plethora of studies done to show the long- standing emotional and psychological effects of corporal punishment, including the following study conducted by psychologist Elizabeth Thompson Gershoff, PhD, of the National Center for Children in Poverty at Columbia University:

“While conducting the meta-analysis, which included 62 years of collected data, Gershoff looked for associations between parental use of corporal punishment and 11 child behaviors and experiences, including several in childhood (immediate compliance, moral internalization, quality of relationship with parent, and physical abuse from that parent), three in both childhood and adulthood (mental health, aggression, and criminal or antisocial behavior), and one in adulthood alone (abuse of own children or spouse).

“Gershoff found “strong associations” between corporal punishment and all eleven child behaviors and experiences. Ten of the associations were negative such as with increased child aggression and antisocial behavior. The single desirable association was between corporal punishment and increased immediate compliance on the part of the child.”

I have honestly never seen a study that found corporal punishment to have long-term positive effects. Not one. I’ve heard anecdotes, but no formal studies. Corporal punishment, e.g., physical abuse, was never used in my home and I have never disrespected my father. I was disciplined, yes, but never hit. And contrary to popular opinion, I truly believe we need more parents who subscribe to that philosophy instead of the opposite.

I have been waiting, patiently, for someone to give me one reason — other than the immediate gratification of getting a child to stop in that moment and “police won’t beat them” — that proves hitting children as a form of discipline is effective. What lesson is learned other than fear and submission to authority — when in their presence? I have heard horror stories from parents with children that they “have to” lay out with belts to get them to listen, and then lay them out again when they don’t listen again. Of course, as parents, we have to do what’s best for our children and there is no universally accepted blueprint, but the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. All that I want is for people, specifically in the black community, to consider that hitting children might not be all we’ve been been trained to believe that it is.

Yes, trained.

When we were on plantations in the antebellum South, and massa wanted us to behave, what did he do?

He whipped us.

When we attempted to read and think for ourselves, what did he do?

He whipped us.

When we tried to run away and assert our autonomy, and massa’s overseer caught us, what did he do?

He whipped us.

When massa said we were being “disrespectful,” what did he do?

He whipped us.

To keep us in line, working hard and obedient, he whipped us, and that is the exact same thing that we do to our children. I find it no small coincidence that in the Deep South, the place that most condones corporal punishment as a form of discipline, black people are statistically less educated, have less money, less property, and are discriminated against in the judicial system to astronomical levels.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it doesn’t seem like the rod is working out too well.

Let’s be clear: Child abuse and corporal punishment are two different things. One is criminal; I simply disagree with the other based on research and anecdotal evidence that I’ve seen for myself. Teaching a child at a young age when verbal communication does not work about life threatening things, e.g., electrical sockets, hot water, cars, etc., could be considered a necessity. Hitting a child because a legitimate form of discipline has not even been attempted is lazy.

I understand that many children of this generation seem to be out of control, but I’m honestly baffled by how many of us have to come to the conclusion that it’s from a lack of hitting. With corporal punishment currently occurring primarily in homes battling the intersection of race and class, and the vast majority of people in the black community still believing strongly that it’s effective, I would be hard pressed to pinpoint lack of hitting children as the reason why young people seem to be more disrespectful.

More like lack of parenting, period.

Some children are allowed to run wild doing whatever the hell they want to do, but parents don’t get upset until they feel disrespected. Then they want to whip them. I cannot understand the logic found in allowing a child to witness abuse in the home, then when that same child gets into trouble at school, they are, again, whipped for being aggressive. It is my opinion that many of our children are victims to over-exposure, unhealthy families, and lack of discipline – which again, is not synonymous with hitting.

My hope is that with the overwhelming evidence against corporal punishment, more parents will at the very least consider alternative forms of punishment. I want us to begin to trust ourselves as parents and not rely on a belt to raise our children. More importantly, I want us to look at the root of corporal punishment, then examine where, how, and when has it been beneficial. If at the end of the day, parents still choose to whip, spank, and slap their children to safety and success, at least they’ve put in due diligence and weighed other options before deciding what’s best for their children, instead of assuming what’s most effective because of generations of “spare the rod.”

Think. It’s not illegal yet


About eddielouis

Retired USN BS Degree
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